Playdates have become much more sophisticated than they use to be. In fact having a “playdate” was practically unheard of. We have moved from allowing our children to roam the streets freely to busy and hectic schedules; parents carpooling children to sports or ballet class; and no time left to just relax and play with a friend. Playdates have become the way for our children to socialize with other children but for some it can be quite tricky. Here are some suggestions and a guide to great playdates so they can be more successful each time you meet with friends.
Forcing your child to have friends over to play basically defeats the purpose of invitation and choice. Don’t ever force your child to play with anyone. Ask them if there is someone they would like to invite over. If they can’t think of anyone specific, hang around and see who they gravitate towards when they’re playing in big groups of kids and then throw out some names the next time you ask. Letting them make the first move about whom they want to come over and play is going to make the playdate much more fun and relaxed.
There are times when having groups of children come and play is appropriate but for playdates three really is a crowd. Try and limit your playdates to just one friend at a time, as three kids only causes fights to erupt and hurt feelings because someone will always feel left out.
A great playdate will always have a time limit. Usually for younger children an hour or maybe an hour and a half is plenty of time for them to play with a friend. Two hours is plenty of time for good friends to play together. Generally if they play together longer than that they get bored with one another or cranky. If you see that happening you can take that as a sign that it is time to end the playdate.
Playdates are supposed to help kids improve their social skills and teach them how to communicate more effectively with other people, so don’t let them sit around and watch a movie or TV show, and keep the computer games to a minimum. It’s impossible for them develop socially with other children if they’re sitting around watching TV or playing games for two hours. Instead have some activities planned for them to do and let the guest parent know that you won’t be watching movies when they come over to play.
Do everyone a favor before the guest arrives and put the favorite toys away. Fighting is a natural thing with children but you can help avoid some of the potential problems by eliminating some of the factors of arguing and fighting by hiding certain toys you know will cause problems. Put out some of the toys that work well when they are used by more than one person. Building blocks, legos, and dolls are all fun activities to do with someone else.
Even though a playdate may only last one to two hours long you should always plan for a break. You can use healthy snacks to break up the time or have a quiet activity planned in case kids get too rowdy. Kids love baking so baking cookies might be a fun activity or reading a book together is always a great choice.
When the playdate is about to end, make sure you give the children ample warning that he or she will be going home soon. Help them clean up whatever they have taken out and continue to give them “minute” warnings so that they can mentally prepare themselves to leave. Kids need to be given time to prepare themselves for departures just as much as adults do so don’t forget this important part or you might end up with a fit on your hands.
This is just a simple guide to great playdates, and hopefully it will help you prepare for this wonderful world of friends meeting friends. Keep things simple and your child will love having friends over to play.